High water puts a twist on upcoming Barren River BFL - Major League Fishing
High water puts a twist on upcoming Barren River BFL
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High water puts a twist on upcoming Barren River BFL

Image for High water puts a twist on upcoming Barren River BFL
Barren River is not a large fishery, but it can produce a pretty interesting tournament.
June 11, 2024 • Sean Ostruszka • Phoenix Bass Fishing League

Kentucky Lake gets the offshore headlines in the Bluegrass State. But, anglers may find that Barren River can more than hold its own in this category come the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Mountain Division tournament on June 22. That is, depending on the water levels.

Tournament details

Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Mountain Division

Barren River

Scottsville, Ky.

June 22

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About the fishery

At only 10,100 acres, Barren River Lake is a postage stand compared to its state’s behemoths, Kentucky Lake (160,309 acres) and Cumberland (65,350 acres), and still petite compared to nearby Dale Hollow (27,000 acres).

Yet, with the amount of rain the area has gotten this spring, Barren River is definitely a lot bigger than normal.

“The lake is still 12-13 feet above summer pool with how much rain we’ve received,” said local pro Nick Ratliff. “That’s definitely going to make it look different than years past.”

Even with the high water, the lake still remains pretty similar to most reservoirs in the area, with clear water and plenty of offshore opportunities on main-lake points near the dam. In fact, the entire main lake area tends to fish more like Kentucky Lake than nearby Dale Hollow, according to Ratliff, with offshore opportunities. Up the river (which actually heads south), the anglers will find dirtier water and plenty of power-fishing.

What to expect

Nick Ratliff is a regular whenever there’s a tournament in Kentucky. Photo by Christian Caldwell.

Up until a half dozen years ago, anyone wanting to win on the Barren River did so making runs to the river, but forward-facing sonar has changed that, according to Ratliff.

“Used to be at least half the Top 10 in any tournament came from the river,” Ratliff says. “Now, you might get one or two. The offshore and suspended main-lake fish just seem to weigh more. Last year I made the top five up the river, but all my fish were really skinny.”

Still, the biggest wildcard this year will be the water levels.

Ratliff said the lake normally doesn’t have all that much current, but right now it’s ripping as they try and get levels back to normal. Will they be back to normal come the tournament? That remains to be seen, but regardless, the high water has doubtless impacted the fish’s transitions to offshore haunts. That may open up new opportunities.

“The river may play more, because guys can flip and throw topwater,” Ratliff says. “Still, if the ‘Scopers can find those schools, they’ll be hard to beat. They can definitely get to that 17-18 mark needed to win, and it wouldn’t surprise me if them or an offshore guy cracks 20 pounds. With how much current there’s been, a guy finding a school on one of those main-lake points could really wreck them with a crankbait or a big jig.”